SWA earnings down 82%

A1FlyBoy

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DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines, the only profitable major carrier after last year's recession and terrorist attacks, reported Thursday that first-quarter earnings plunged 82 percent.

Southwest said it earned $21.4 million, or 3 cents per share, compared to net income of $121 million, or 15 cents per share in the first quarter of 2001.

The results met the expectation of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call and set Southwest apart from other large carriers American, Delta and Continental, which have reported large first-quarter losses.

Shares of Southwest fell 38 cents, or 2 percent, to $18.62 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Revenue fell 12 percent to $1.26 billion, compared to $1.43 billion a year earlier.

The number of miles flown by passengers, a key measure in the airline industry, declined 2.5 percent, and Southwest -- which, unlike rivals, did not eliminate flights after Sept. 11 -- saw its planes flying 62.9 percent full, down from 67.3 percent occupancy in early 2001.

Analysts expected Dallas-based Southwest to remain profitable while other carriers lost money because it has been less affected by a drop in business travel and because of its ability to control costs. Spending fell slightly, to $1.21 billion, helped by lower costs for jet fuel.

Chief executive James F. Parker said profitability will steadily improve but earnings for the second quarter will lag behind the $175.6 million profit in the second quarter of last year. Occupancy on planes will also continue to decline, he said.
 
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